Multiplex is the Programme Delivery Partner at the University of Glasgow campus development project – the largest development in the University’s history, which stretches back to 1451. It includes many individual projects and is set to increase the total campus size by one third.

We caught up with Social Value & Community Manager Kieran Ronnie to hear about the social value generated by the construction of the James McCune Smith Learning Hub, which has been detailed in a new report below.

James McCune Smith
Learning Hub

Social Value & Community Report

Tell us about the University of Glasgow project

The University is developing its campus in the West End of Glasgow with a number of projects across a 14-acre site. We started work on the James McCune Smith Learning Hub back in 2017 and it will be the first completed project we hand over to the University. We are also underway with three other projects: the Research Hub, the Infrastructure and Landscaping project, and the Clarice Pears Institute of Health and Wellbeing.

Creating social value is an important element of the project for both us and the University, with specific social value targets built into the contract. We have a great track record of delivering on social value and it’s great to work with a client who shares that ambition and commitment. The University has been part of Glasgow for over 500 years, it’s a big part of the city and it’s important to make sure that we recognise our responsibility to deliver positive outcomes as part of the campus development.

One of the benefits of Multiplex working on this project as the University’s Programme Delivery Partner is that it gives us a pipeline of projects. Our well-established social value strategy, our experience, and our relationships with supply chain and community partners mean we can create long-term sustainable employment opportunities.

How do you define social value?

For me, it’s about recognising that our influence as a company is not just in the concrete or steel, it’s about the people as well. We are shaping communities – the fabric of how places are, what they’re used for and how people interact with them. We have huge potential to impact the local economy through local businesses, jobs, training, education and community groups.

Social value is about maximising the potential of all of these opportunities, identifying them and making sure we capitalise on the social and economic returns they can create. In other words, it’s not just the building we hand over at the end of the project, it’s a legacy of employment, skills and development. It also means we are delivering a building that is rooted in the local community, because local people have worked on it, supplied it, have already engaged with it.

How do you measure social value?

Measuring social value – putting a financial value on it – is an increasing theme throughout the construction industry. We have agreed social value targets with the University and have been using the Social Profit Calculator, which is accredited by Social Value UK, to calculate the Social Return on Investment. The Social Value Report we have produced for the James McCune Smith Learning Hub is the first Multiplex project report to include this social economic impact figure, which is really exciting. By analysing the combined impact of our various activities in areas such as local spend, employment, apprenticeships, training, and working with charities and schools, we have calculated that for every £1 spent we have generated £1.87 of social and economic value.

We also have a social spend target at the University of Glasgow, to engage with and contract with social enterprises and supported businesses. This is the first time I’ve worked on a project with a spend target for the social sector and I’m proud to say that last month we passed the £1 million mark.

What are some examples of the social value we have created at the University of Glasgow?

Among the numbers, it’s easy to forget that these can be life changing outcomes. For example, in response to COVID-19 restrictions we ran a Virtual Work Experience Programme a few weeks ago and three of the people who attended have now been supported into work at the project. We’ve helped three young people go from unemployed and struggling to working in the construction industry by giving them access to opportunities that may not have been available to them before.

Another example is our work with Street and Arrow, a social enterprise run by Police Scotland’s Violence Reduction Unit that helps offenders back into the workforce. The Street and Arrow food truck provides onsite catering at the project, giving ex-offenders the opportunity to work with mentors and chefs and learn valuable personal development and employability skills. We have even been able to support individuals at the end of the programme into employment within our supply chain and as part of the University’s own catering department.

It’s great to be able to demonstrate the millions of pounds of economic impact, but it’s the personal stories like this that mean the most to me.

What makes Multiplex’s approach to social value special?

Our approach to social value is built on collaboration. We’ve been doing it for years and it’s built into the way we operate. It’s not just a bolt-on, it’s something the entire project team and supply chain understand and are involved in. This united approach delivers results that would be impossible to achieve working in isolation or as an afterthought. With the project team, supply chain, client and other stakeholders all aligned and working together, we can maximise the positive impact of the project.

At the start of the project, we set up a community partnership led by the Department of Work and Pensions, and linking our supply chain with this partnership has been critical to securing outcomes for those farthest from the job market. Our mantra from the beginning of the University of Glasgow project is ‘working in partnership,’ which is printed on every hi-vis jacket. This applies not just for social value, but across the whole project delivery, and it is this culture of partnership and collaboration that makes Multiplex’s approach special.

Any personal highlight for you looking back on the project?

I actually completed my undergraduate degree at the University of Glasgow, graduating back in 2012, so it’s been a real highlight for me to be able to come back here. The facilities that the students and academics will have here are world class and it’s great to be a part of delivering that.